Relations between Russia and Georgia

Political tensions between Russia and Georgia have persisted since two of Georgia’s regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, attempted to secede from the country following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although both South Ossetia and Abkhazia defeated Georgian troops in armed conflict for independence, neither Georgia nor the international community recognizes the regions’ claims to independence. Georgian authorities accuse Russia of secretly supporting the separatist movements in both regions.15 In accordance with agreements putting an end to the armed conflicts, Russia deployed peacekeepers to South Ossetia in 1992 and to Abkhazia in 1994.16 As of this writing, Russia maintains approximately 2,500 peacekeepers in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia and one military base in Georgia.17 The Georgian parliament has sought, unsuccessfully, to pressure the government to force the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers.18

In November 2003, Georgia’s president, Eduard Shevardnadze, was ousted in a bloodless public uprising that became known as the “Rose Revolution.” In January 2004, voters elected as president Mikheil Saakashvili, one of the leaders of the revolution. President Saakashvili took an openly pro-Western stance, seeking political, economic, and military cooperation with the European Union (EU) and the United States (US), including membership in NATO.19 Russia openly opposes Georgia’s NATO aspirations.20

In late March 2006, citing health concerns, Russia initiated a series of import restrictions on goods from Georgia, beginning with Georgian wine, vegetables, and fruits. In April Russia banned sparkling wine and brandy, and in May, prohibited Georgian mineral water.21 At midnight on July 8, 2006, Russia abruptly closed the only overland legal border crossing point with Georgia, allegedly due to reconstruction of the post, effectively halting Georgian exports to Russia.22 Some suspect that the blockades were designed to punish Georgia for not supporting Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization.

On September 27, 2006 the political confrontation escalated further when Georgian police arrested four Russian military-intelligence officers, whom it accused of espionage. Russia responded by recalling its ambassador for consultations and evacuating personnel from its embassy in Tbilisi. Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Abkhaz and South Ossetian leaders to his residence in Sochi on September 30, further raising tensions and prompting Georgian officials to again accuse President Putin of openly supporting Georgia’s separatist regions.23

On October 1, during a meeting with the State Security Council and representatives of the Central Bank and Finance Ministry, President Putin said Georgia’s arrests of the alleged spies recalled the policies of Lavrenti Beria, the head of the Soviet KGB under Stalin, and claimed Georgia was acting under the protection of “foreign sponsors” to provoke Russia.24 The Russian government temporarily halted the process of withdrawing military personnel from its military installations on Georgian territory. Andrei Popov, head of Russian forces in the South Caucasus, announced that troops in Georgia were on high alert.25

On October 2, Georgian authorities handed over the four Russian military officers to representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Despite the transfer, Russia effectively introduced sanctions against Georgia, beginning with a halt to all air, land, and sea traffic as well as postal communication between the two countries.26 The Russian embassy in Georgia stopped issuing visas to Georgians.27 Russian police undertook widespread inspections and closures of Georgian businesses and stopped, detained, and expelled thousands of ethnic Georgians, as described in this report.28 Tensions between the Russian and Georgian governments remained high in the months following the conflict. Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili visited Moscow on November 2, with the aim of diffusing the diplomatic crisis. Bezhuashvili made public the news that Russia’s state-controlled natural gas company, Gazprom, intended to more than double the price of gas supplies to Georgia for 2007.29 In late December Georgia accepted the increase in gas prices after Gazprom threatened to cut off supplies.30

On January 18, 2007, the Russian ambassador to Georgia was returned to Tbilisi. On May 29, Russia resumed issuing visas to certain categories of Georgian citizens, including those whose family members live in Russia and are Russian citizens as well as Georgian citizens who had Russian temporary residence permits.31 Presidents Putin and Saakashvili met on June 10, at the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit in St. Petersburg, where President Putin promised to gradually lift the trade and visa restrictions against Georgia.32 Senior Russian government officials traveled to Tbilisi on June 14 to initiate discussions on slowly reopening the market for Georgian wines,33 and on July 19, Russia began issuing student, business, work and transit visas to Georgians.34 Although the Russian media had reported that Russia might resume air and other links with Georgia, as of this writing, the two governments had failed to reach an agreement on resumption of flights between the two countries.35 Political conflict continued between the Russian and Georgian governments about the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.36

Racism and Xenophobia in Russia

The October and November 2006 crackdown on ethnic Georgians emerged in the course of an evolving political crisis between Russia and Georgia, and took place amid pervasive racism and xenophobia in Russian society, which the Russian government has failed to adequately prevent or combat.37 In a report on a June 2006 visit, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, noted, “Russian society is facing an alarming trend of racism and xenophobia.”38 Violent racially-motivated attacks and murders have become common occurrences in Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as in smaller cities. Ethnic minorities of non-Slavic appearance, including university students, migrant workers, and even children have been targeted. Experts have found that “[p]articularly high levels of racist violence are directed toward people from the Caucasus.”39 According to the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, a Moscow-based NGO that monitors hate crimes, from January 1 – July 31, 2007, there were at least 310 racially-motivated attacks, and 37 victims died as a result.40 In 2006 there were at least 439 racially-motivated attacks, including the stabbing of a nine-year-old Tajik girl. Forty-four of these attacks resulted in the victim’s death.41 Most often the perpetrators of these violent acts are groups of young men and women who profess a neo-fascist ideology and are known as “Neo-Nazis” or “skinheads.” There is no official figure on the number of “skinheads” in Russia, but in 2005 the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization studying discrimination and hate crimes, put the figure at over 50,000.42

In one striking series of events in the northern Russian town of Kondopoga in early September 2006, hundreds of local residents attacked ethnic minorities and thousands participated in anti-immigrant rallies. The events were prompted by the death of two ethnic Russian men, residents of Kondopoga, following an altercation with Chechen men in a restaurant on August 30. In subsequent days, thousands of local residents and nationalist supporters from other regions staged public protests calling on the local authorities to “stop the domination of Caucasians,” especially of local markets. Some demonstrators engaged in arson attacks against the property of people from or believed to be from the Caucasus. At least eight people from or believed to be from the Caucasus were injured in the violence.43

Violent, vigilante attacks on minorities are one manifestation of racial, ethnic, and national discrimination in Russia. The expulsions of Georgians, however, were directed by the government, and it is important to note in this light that racist, xenophobic, and nationalist rhetoric is increasingly common among political leaders and during political campaigns.44 According to the SOVA Center, much of the Russian media propagates racial stereotypes.45 Apartment owners routinely demand to know the race of prospective tenants.

Police place additional arbitrary and illegal barriers to visibly identifiable members of certain minority groups, including Russian citizens, when they seek to obtain their mandatory residency permits.46 Police in some cases also refuse to issue the permits to minorities at all, thereby denying them access to certain public services, forcing them to live in violation of residency laws, and making them subject to a fine.47 (For more detailed information residency permits, see below, Migration and Migration Policy in Russia.) Many police then exploit this situation and regularly target visibly identifiable minorities for arbitrary document inspections on the street; police most often claim to be checking for proper residency registration.48 Such inspections rarely produce evidence of a violation, and are often a pretext for the extortion of small bribes.49 A 2006 study by the Open Society Institute and the Moscow-based nongovernmental organization JURIX determined that police in the Moscow metro engaged in widespread racial profiling and conducted document inspections of people of non-Slavic appearance 21.8 times more often than those of Slavic appearance. The study found that this “disproportion is massive and cannot be explained on non-discriminatory, legitimate law enforcement grounds.”50

The Russian Constitution prohibits discrimination on any grounds,51 as do the European Convention on Human Rights, the ICCPR, and the ICERD. The ICERD specifically calls on governments to “condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms…” Governments should themselves refrain from any “act or practice of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions and to ensure that all public authorities and public institutions, national and local, shall act in conformity with this obligation.”52

The Russian authorities’ efforts to stop racial discrimination and violence against minorities have been inadequate at best. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in a May 2007 resolution, noted that “the Russian Federation has still not adopted comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation offering effective remedies for victims of discrimination.”53 Police and prosecutors often do not take action in response to allegations of racially-motivated crimes. Although convictions for hate-related violent crimes have increased in recent years, the number of crimes far exceeds the number of convictions, and convictions remain rare in cities with the highest levels of hate-related crimes.54 In many cases when perpetrators of violence against minorities are apprehended, the Russian judiciary downplays racially-motivated violence by prosecuting the attackers for “hooliganism” rather than charging them for inciting hatred or enmity despite relevant provisions in the Russian criminal code.55

President Putin has promised that the government “will always keep track of the fight against anti-Semitism and the manifestations of other extreme trends–extremism and xenophobia–including the manifestation of chauvinism and anti-Russian sentiments.”56 Other senior government officials have also acknowledged racism and xenophobia to be problems.57 However, both President Putin and other senior government officials have also made statements in the context of the anti-Georgian campaign and migration policy in general, which referred to minorities in derogatory terms. (see below, Migration and Migration Policy in Russia, and The Campaign against Georgians).

In 2002, Russia adopted a major anti-discrimination law, the Law on Countering Extremist Activities, aimed at the disclosure, prevention and suppression of extremist activities by organizations or individuals.58 It is not within the purview of this report to assess the law’s effectiveness in fighting racism and racist violence. The law has drawn criticism for its broad definitions of “extremist activities” that have been used against many lawful, non-violent non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as against human rights activists and political opponents of the current administration.59 Experts fear that amendments to the Law on Countering Extremist Activities signed by President Putin on July 26, 2007, could provide additional pretexts for the government to silence lawful, non-violent, but critical voices.60

Migration and Migration Policy in Russia

Russia’s targeting of Georgians coincided with the government’s enactment of new policies affecting all migrants, some of which restricted migration and others that sought to simplify registration and work authorization processes. In the face of population decline, the Russian government needs and seeks foreign workers to maintain its vibrant economy, but struggles to reconcile this need with nationalist tendencies and intolerance toward minorities.61 Although figures vary widely, the World Bank estimates that in 2000, the total number of migrants in Russia was 13,259,000, with some 1.5 million of them irregular.62 The Russian Federal Migration Service estimated in 2006 that at least 20 million migrants were living in Russia, with approximately half of them irregular migrants.63 In March 2007, a Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs official told Human Rights Watch that the number of irregular immigrants is between 10 and 12 million.64 According to the Federal Migration Service, in 2006, only one million foreigners worked in Russia legally.65

The majority of both legal and irregular migrants in Russia come from the countries of the former Soviet Union.66 Between 400,000 and one million Georgians were living in Russia in 2006,67 including many Georgians who fled to Russia following the 1992-1993 war in Abkhazia.68 Remittances from private individuals working in Russia are significant and constitute an important part of the economies of many countries in the region. In October 2006, the Russian Central Bank reported that private individuals sent over US$3.25 billion to countries of the CIS using postal money transfers in 2005 and has estimated that an additional US$10 billion is transferred by other means. Georgia ranked eighth in terms of overall remittances in the second quarter of 2006.69

Russian government policies related to migration and employment for migrants have changed frequently in recent years and are generally complex. It is not within the scope of this report to fully analyze the history or recent developments in Russian migration policies. Such analyses can be found in other expert reports.70 Discussion in this report will be limited to those policies most directly relevant to the October and November 2006 expulsion of Georgians from Russia.

Until 2001, Georgians, like all other former citizens of the Soviet Union and citizens of countries of the CIS, could travel freely to Russia and live in Russia legally without Russian citizenship or residency permits. Like Russian citizens, CIS citizens were required to register their place of residence, irrespective of the length of visit, with local Ministry of Internal Affairs offices. In 2001, apparently to address government concerns that rebel Chechen fighters were entering Russia via Georgia, Russia announced that any Georgian citizen traveling to Russia was required to obtain a visa.71 The law did not apply to Georgians from Abkhazia, most of whom had never applied for Georgian or Russian citizenship, and were considered stateless. Other citizens of the CIS, except for citizens of Turkmenistan, who also became subject to visa requirements in 1999, continue to enjoy visa-free travel with Russia, although laws regulating their stay, as described below, have changed several times in recent years.

In 2002, Russia introduced two new laws, the Law on Citizenship of the Russian Federation, and the Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation, which, among other things, abruptly ended the permanent residency and citizenship rights of hundreds of thousands of former Soviet citizens, including many Georgians from Abkhazia, the majority of whom had been residing lawfully in Russia.72 The Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation for the first time subjected these categories of migrants to the same requirements as existed for other foreigners regarding the maximum length of temporary residency.73 Also in 2002, a new Code of Administrative Offenses increased the punishments for violation of the laws of residency or working illegally to include the possibility of expulsion, in addition to a fine.74

All foreigners—regardless of whether they were from countries of the former Soviet Union—were also now required to register their residency with the relevant Ministry of Internal Affairs office within three working days of arrival. To register with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, an individual produced a passport, a letter of request for registration, and a document proving the right to accommodation at a specific address, such as a lease or letter from the homeowner. Often, foreigners entering Russia were not able to meet these requirements, as three days is often insufficient time for migrants to find accommodation. Frequently migrants were unaware of the rules, and landlords were reluctant to help potential tenants, as the process is bureaucratically difficult and registering an individual in some cases led to additional utilities charges or taxes for the landlord. (As will be described below, a law that went into effect in January 2007 simplified this process).

Ministry of Interior officials also demanded additional documentation or other requirements from some applicants or simply deny residency registration to some applicants. The European Committee on Racism and Intolerance found that “in the vast majority, if not all cases of arbitrary refusal or unlawful additional requirements relating to the registration system, the victims are visible minorities.”75 The Russian constitution guarantees freedom of movement; Russian courts have ruled the practice of denying residency registration to anyone requesting it to be unconstitutional.76

In July 2006 parliament passed further amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation and a new Law on Recording the Migration of Foreign Nationals and Stateless Persons, which took effect on January 15, 2007. The laws primarily impact the legal status of migrants from the CIS entering Russia under the visa-free regime. Although the changes are too numerous to detail here, some of the main improvements include a simplified procedure for obtaining a temporary residence permit as well as the option for an individual to obtain a work permit directly from the migration authorities before finding work (previously, a worker obtained a work permit only through his or her employer). The registration regime still requires that foreigners submit proof of accommodation, although employers have the option of registering employees at the place of employment. The law also empowers the government to issue quotas on foreign employment for certain categories of individuals, for certain economic sectors, or in certain regions of Russia.77

The government initiated further significant changes to its migration policies at the time of the political crisis with Georgia in late 2006. In an October 5 speech, President Putin called on the government to take immediate decisions to regulate foreign workers in the nation’s thousands of markets by making market owners accountable for workers’ violations of migration laws in order “to protect the interests of Russian producers and population, the native Russian population.”78

On November 5, 2006 President Putin signed amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences which provide for harsher penalties for foreigners who violate immigration regulations or the rules of entry and stay in the Russian Federation as well as for workers and employers who violate the rules regulating the employment of foreign nationals.79 Also in November 2006, the government established quotas for foreign workers in 2007.80 Governmental Decree no. 683 of November 15, 2006 restricted foreigners from retail sales of alcohol and pharmaceuticals as of January 15, 2007, and banned foreigners from working as sellers in market stalls and kiosks as of April 1, 2007.81 The bans did not apply to foreigners working as supervisors, renters, wholesalers, haulers, and cleaners in the retail markets or to those working in stores, cafes, restaurants, or bars. The bans are in place through the end of 2007, when the government may extend, change, or cancel them.82 Russian authorities undertook widespread inspections of the country’s markets to ensure compliance with the new rules.83

Also in January 2007, a new program came into effect to encourage voluntary repatriation to Russia of ethnic Russians living in other countries, as directed by President Putin in a June 2006 decree.84 Speaking about Russian migration policy in the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, in May 2006, President Putin stated, “As far as perfecting our migration policy is concerned, the priority here remains bringing our compatriots home from abroad. In this, it is necessary to intensify the influx of qualified migration into the country-- people who are educated and law-abiding. People coming to Russia from abroad should respect Russian culture and our national traditions.”85

After the new migration laws came into full force on April 1, 2007, thousands of small shops and market stalls across Russia stood empty and prices for some goods had increased sharply.86 Employers posted notices appealing to farmers with Moscow residency registration to sell food.87 At a Moscow city hall meeting on April 4, 2007, a city official said that 10,000 stalls were now vacant, but claimed that this had little effect on sales.88 The Federal Migration Service began conducting inspections of markets and other businesses throughout Russia and issued fines of up to 800,000 rubles (approximately US$31,415) to employers found to be in violation of the new migration laws.89 According to one expert on migration, however, as of July 2007, in many cases employers continue employing migrants, even in the prohibited jobs, paying bribes to police and other officials responsible for enforcing the law.90

15 Georgia accuses the Russian government of de facto annexation of its territory through distribution of Russian Federation pensions and passports to Abkhaz residents, financial support and training of the Abkhaz military, statements in support of Abkhaz independence, and investment in and trade with the entity. International Crisis Group, “Abkhazia: Ways Forward,” Europe Report No. 179, January 18, 2007, p. 5, (accessed on May 21, 2007). See also “Full Text: Saakashvili’s Address at UN General Assembly-2006,” Civil Georgia, (accessed May 22, 2007).

16 In South Ossetia Russian peacekeepers are part of the trilateral (Georgian, Russian, Ossetian) Joint Peacekeeping Forces (JPKF), while in Abkhazia, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping mission includes Russian troops only.

17 The Russian military base at Akhalkalaki was handed over to the Georgian government on June 27, 2007. “Russia hands its military base at Akhalkalaki to Georgia,”(Rossiia peredala Gruzii svoiu voennuiu bazu v Akhalkalaki), RIA Novosti, (accessed September 10, 2007). The Russian military base in the Black Sea port of Batumi is to close before the end of 2008. “Russia resumes pullout of military bases from Georgia,” RIA Novosti, April 12, 2007, (accessed May 15, 2007).

18 See, for example, “Georgian Parliament Votes to Boot Russian Peacekeepers from South Ossetia,” EurasiaNet, February 15, 2006 (accessed August 1, 2007); and Vladimir Socor, “Georgian Parliament Calls for Replacing Russian Peacekeepers with International Police Contingent,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, July 20, 2006 (accessed August 1, 2007).

19 In September 2006 NATO offered Georgia an Intensified Dialogue, in recognition of Georgia’s aspirations to join the organization. However, Georgia will move on to the next step of the NATO ascension process (the Membership Action Plan (MAP)) only if it implements reforms. See NATO Parliamentary Assembly, “24 April 2007 – Georgia Moves Closer to NATO Membership, but Reforms Must Continue [Press Communiqué],” April 24, 2007, (accessed May 15, 2007), and NATO, “NATO-Georgia Relations,” May 2, 2007, (accessed May 15, 2007).

20 In its 2007 foreign policy statement, Russia noted that, “The enlargement plans of NATO (including accelerated admission of Georgia and Ukraine), moving its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders (setting up bases in Romania and Bulgaria), and its non-ratification of the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty inevitably complicate our relations.” See, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “A Survey of Russian Federation Foreign Policy,” (accessed May 15, 2007).

21Georgian wine and other goods continued to be imported by the EU and the US. Russia also initiated blockades on Moldovan wine at this time. Nearly 90 percent of Georgian revenues from wine sale came from the Russian market. As of May 2007, Georgians had lost US$50 million as a result of the wine ban and US$13 million dollars from the ban on mineral water. However, economists predicted that Russian importers and retailers would also suffer and stood to lose US$700 million from the alcohol embargo alone. “Russia Extends Georgian, Moldovan Wine Ban,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), April 6, 2006, (accessed May 16, 2007); Maria Levitov, “Russian Ban on Georgian Mineral Water,” St. Petersburg Times, May 12, 2006, (accessed May 16, 2007); “Bans Cost Georgia $100M,” The Moscow Times, May 16, 2007, available at: (accessed May 16, 2007).

22 Jeffrey Thomas, “US Calls on Russia to Re-open Georgia Border Checkpoint,” USINFO, July 14, 2006 (accessed August 1, 2007).

23 “Georgia Accuses Putin of Supporting Separatists,” RFE/RL, October 1, 2006, (accessed March 8, 2007).

24 “Putin compared Georgia’s actions with the policies of Beria,” (Putin sravnil deistvia Gruzii s politikoi Berii),, October 1, 2006, (accessed March 8, 2007). Beria was the Georgian-born head of the notorious Soviet secret police during the height of Stalinist repression. Then called the People’s Commisariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), this body was the precursor of the KGB and, later, the FSB, which President Putin headed before entering politics.

25 “Russian forces in Georgia put on high alert,” (Rossiiskie voennie v Gruzii privedeny v sostoianie povishennoi boegotovnosti),, October 1, 2006, (accessed March 8, 2007).

26 The Russian government claimed that it had not issued sanctions, but that the blockade was commercially justified owing to, among other things, Georgian violations of international and bilateral agreements and debts in the airline industry. See “Transportation blockade of Georgia,” (Transportnaya blokada Gruzii), Kommersant No. 184 (3515), October 3, 2006, (accessed August 1, 2007); and “How the Russian government explains the introduction of sanctions against Georgia,” (Kak rossiiskie vlasti obiasniaiut vvedenie sanktsii protiv Gruzii), Kommersant No. 184 (3515), October 3, 2006, (accessed August 1, 2007).

27 Prior to the ban, Russia had issued approximately 100,000 visas per year to Georgians. “Vizi dobroi voli,” (Visas of good will), Vremya Novostei (Time for News), July 20, 2007, (accessed August 2, 2007); and “Russia Partially Resumes Visas for Georgia,” Civil Georgia, May 29, 2007, (accessed June 25, 2007).

28 For details on Russia’s numerous retaliatory actions taken against Georgians, see “Anti-Georgian campaign,” (Antigruzinskaia kampania),, (accessed April 17, 2007).

29 Gazprom wanted to charge Georgia US$230 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, compared to the existing price of US$110 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. Gazprom claims that it is looking to stop subsidizing economies in the former Soviet Union and will charge prices closer to its European export prices. Many analysts believe Russia is using gas prices as a political weapon in political disputes with its neighbors. Similar disputes have occurred with Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus. Neil Buckley, “Russia Threatens to Double Gas Price to Georgia,” Financial Times, November 2, 2006, (accessed August 6, 2007); “Gazprom to Double Georgia Charges,” BBC News, November 2, 2006, (accessed August 6, 2007); and, for example, Peter Finn, “Russia, Ukraine Quarrel over Gas,” Washington Post, December 17, 2005,

30 “Georgia ‘Agrees Russia Gas Bill,’” BBC News, December 22, 2006, (accessed August 6, 2007).

31 “Russia Partially Resumes Visas for Georgia.”

32 “Saakashvili Upbeat After Talks With Putin,” Civil Georgia, June 10, 2006, (accessed August 2, 2007).

33 Vladimir Socor, “Russia Hints at Gradual Return of Georgian and Moldovan Wines to its Market,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, July 2, 2007, (accessed August 2, 2007).

34 “Visas of good will,” (Vizi dobroi voli).

35 “No Agreement on Tbilisi-Moscow Charter Flights,” Civil Georgia, August 2, 2007 (accessed August 2, 2007).

36 There have been numerous violent outbursts in the disputed regions. For example, in June 2007 a group of ethnic Georgians confronted Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia after peacekeepers allegedly prevented the Georgians from building bypassing roads to cities that were otherwise blockaded. See, Mikhail Vignanskii, “Let us pass,” (Daite dorogu) Vremya Novostei, June 29, 2007, (accessed August 6, 2007). Russia and Georgia blame each other for an alleged helicopter attack on three settlements in the Khodori gorge, the only part of Abkhazia which is not under de facto Abkhaz authority. See Marc Champion, “Georgia Incident Deepens Russia Rift,” The Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2007, (accessed August 6, 2007). Georgia continues to obstruct Russia’s World Trade Organization (WTO) accession, maintaining its “no” vote on Russian ascension to the WTO due to Russia’s alleged involvement in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. As a condition for changing its vote, Georgia is demanding that Russia stop trading with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and that goods entering Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Russia pass through border points overseen by the central Georgian government. Georgia has also cited the Russian ban on Georgian wine and mineral water as reasons for its “no” vote. “Russia Meets Trade Powers in New Push to Join the WTO,” International Herald Tribune, July 23, 2007, (accessed August 6, 2007).

37 The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.” For an analysis of Russian attitudes towards national identity and minorities conducted by the Levada Center see Dmitry Polikanov, “Nationalism in Moderation,” Russia Profile, August 1, 2007, (accessed August 10, 2007).

38 “Russian society is facing an alarming trend of racism and xenophobia, the most striking manifestations of which are the increasing number of racially motivated crimes and attacks, including by neo-Nazi groups, particularly against people of non-Slav appearance originating from the Caucasus, Africa, Asia or the Arab world; the growing level of violence with which some of these attacks are carried out, resulting in some cases in the death of the victim; the extension of this violence to human rights defenders, intellectuals and students engaged in the combat against racism; the climate of relative impunity that the perpetrators of such acts enjoy from law enforcement agents, despite a substantial increase, in recent months, of prosecutions and convictions for acts including racial hatred or enmity as a motivating factor; the rise of anti-Semitism as well as other forms of religious intolerance, in particular against Muslims; [and] the existence and the increasing importance of political parties with racist and xenophobic platforms …” “Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène, Mission to the Russian Federation,” A/HRC/4/19/Add.3, May 30, 2007, (accessed August 1, 2007).

39 This may be “in part in response to the war in Chechnya and associated terrorist attacks in Russian towns and cities.” Paul LeGendre, “Minorities under Siege.” Human Rights First, June 26, 2006, (accessed April 23, 2007). See also footnote38.

40 “Statistics of racist and neo-Nazi crimes in Russia,” Sova Center, August 3, 2007, (accessed August 23, 2007).

41 Galina Kozhevnikova, “Autumn 2006: Under the Kondopoga Banner,” Sova Center, (accessed April 23, 2007). In February 2004, another nine-year-old Tajik girl was the victim of a stabbing attack and died as a result. See Carl Schreck, “Girl, 9, Stabbed to Death in St. Pete,” The Moscow Times, February 11, 2004, (accessed August 1, 2007).

42 The Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, “Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and ethnic discrimination in the Russian Federation in 2005,” (Rasizm, ksenofobia, antisemitizm, etnicheskaya discrminatsia v Rossisskoi Federatsii v 2005g.), (accessed April 2, 2007).

43 Aleksei Ivlev, “Karelian order,” (Karelskii poriadok), Vremya Novostei, No 159, September 4, 2006 (accessed August 1, 2007); and Galina Kozhevnikova, “Autumn 2006: Under the Kondopoga Banner.”

44 The political party “Movement against Illegal Immigrants” is one of the most obvious manifestations of this trend, although racist discourse is also common among mainstream politicians and political parties. See European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), “Third Report on the Russian Federation,” adopted December 16, 2005, paras. 133-136, 160, (accessed May 21, 2007).

45 See for example, “Hate speech: after Kondopoga. Analysis of the results of monitoring of hate speech in the Russian mass media: September-December 2006,” (Iazyk vrazhdi: posle Kondopogi. Analiz rezultatov monitoringa iazika vrazhdy v rossiiskikh SMI (sentiabr-dekabr 2006g.) SOVA Center, (accessed June 6, 2007).

46 All persons living in Russia are required by law to register their permanent or temporary place of residence with the local police. Registration appears as a stamp, indicating the place of residence, in the identity document. European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), “Third Report on the Russian Federation,” adopted December 16, 2005, paras. 155- 157.

47 Under Russian law, the only social services requiring proof of registration are pensions and other state allowances. However, public officials in some cases refuse people without registration access to social services such as insurance, medical care, including emergency medical assistance, and education. ECRI, “Third Report on the Russian Federation,” para. 159. See also, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène, Mission to the Russian Federation.”

48 Under Russian legislation, every person who arrives in Russia or lives in Russia regardless of citizenship, has an obligation to register with a local Ministry of Interior office at the place of permanent or temporary residence. Failure to obtain registration results in an administrative fine. See below, Migration and Migration Policies in Russia, for a detailed discussion.

49 ECRI, “Third Report on the Russian Federation,” para. 158, and Open Society Justice Initiative, “Ethnic Profiling in the Moscow Metro,” Open Society Institute Justice Initiative, (accessed April 23, 2007). The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed its concern about “racially selective inspections and identity checks targeting members of specific minorities, including those from the Caucasus…” Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the Russian Federation CERD/C/62/Co/7, 62nd session, March 21, 2003.

50 Open Society Justice Initiative, “Ethnic Profiling in the Moscow Metro.”

51 “The state shall guarantee the equality of rights and liberties regardless of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, property or employment status, residence, attitude to religion, convictions, membership of public associations or any other circumstance,” article 19.2, Constitution of the Russian Federation, Adopted December 12, 1993, (accessed July 31, 2007).

52 Article 2, section 1, ICERD.

53 Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Resolution CM/ResCMN(2007)7 on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities by the Russian Federation, adopted May 2, 2007, (accessed May 7, 2007).

54 Galina Kozhevnikova, “Radical Nationalism in Russia and Efforts to Counteract it in 2006,” (Radikalnii natsionalizm v Rossii i protivodeistvie emu v 2006 godu), SOVA Center, available at (accessed September 6, 2007).

55 Ibid. The Russian Duma has been reviewing legislation to forbid journalists to mention the ethnicity of criminals and victims when reporting on crimes. Human rights activists and others fear that this law would serve to hide hate crimes from the public. Brian Whitmore, “Russia: Critics Fear Draft Bill Will Cover up Hate Crimes,” RFE/RL, March 22, 2007, (accessed March 23, 2007); and Paul LeGendre, “Minorities under Siege.”

56 Paul LeGendre, “Minorities under Siege.” Putin has made other statements condemning racism and xenophobia. See for example, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène, Mission to the Russian Federation,” footnote 3.

57 See, for example, “First deputy PM admits Russia has problems with xenophobia,” ITAR-TASS, in Russian, as carried in BBC Monitoring, July 28, 2007.

58 Federal Law on Countering Extremist Activities, No. 114 FZ, July 25, 2002, with amendments.

59 Paul LeGendre, “Minorities under Siege,” and “David Nowak, “Skinhead Law Being Applied to Liberals,” The Moscow Times, June 8, 2007 (accessed June 8, 2007). For an analysis of the Russian government’s misuse of extremism laws, see SOVA Center, “Misuse of Anti-Extremism Legislation: Short Analysis and Recommendations,” May 7, 2007, (accessed August 1, 2007).

60 See Committee to Protect Journalists, “In Russia, Putin Signs Restrictive Amendments on ‘Extremism,’” July 26, 2007, (accessed July 31, 2007); and Alexander Privalov, “On extremism without borders,” (Ob extremizm bez beregov), Expert No. 26 (567), (accessed July 31, 2007).

61 Russian officials predict that the country’s population will decrease by one million annually over the next 20 years. See Claire Bigg, “Russia: Putin Asks Parliament to Ease Citizenship Rules,” RFE/RL, December 2, 2005, (accessed April 23, 2007). The World Bank estimates that to maintain the population level of 1995, Russia would need net migration of 24.9 million from 2000-2050. To maintain the same size working-age population would require 35.8 million migrants. Ali Mansoor and Bryce Quillin, “Migration and Remittances Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union,” (The World Bank, Washington, DC: 2007), (accessed May 22, 2007).

62 Mansoor and Quillin, “Migration and Remittances Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union.”

63 “Russia loses over $9 bln/yr from illegal immigration-govt,” RIA Novosti, November 3, 2006, (accessed April 23, 2007).

64 Human Rights Watch interview with Mikhail Lebedev, deputy director, Department for Humanitarian Affairs and Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Moscow, March 28, 2007.

65 “Foreigners in Russia are forbidden to sell at markets,” (Inostrantsam v Rossiii zapretili torgovat na rynkakh),, April 1, 2007, (accessed August 1, 2007).

66 According to the World Bank, of the more than 425,000 immigrants to Russia in 2000-2003, 75 percent come from the countries of the CIS. Mansoor and Quillin, “Migration and Remittances Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union.”

67 “Georgia: Hundreds Stranded After Deportations from Russia,” EurasiaNet, October 21, 2006, (accessed August 1, 2007). Approximately 100,000 Georgians were living in Moscow as of October 2006. This was two times more than the number registered in the 2002 population census. “Georgian Moscow,” (Gruzinskaia Moskva), Kommersant, No. 185, October 4, 2006, (accessed May 15, 2007).

68 “Georgia: Hundreds Stranded After Deportations from Russia,” RFE/RL. Approximately 100,000 Georgians were living in Moscow as of October 2006. This was two times more than the number registered in the 2002 population census. “Georgian Moscow,” (Gruzinskaia Moskva).

69 In the second quarter of 2006, Uzbekistan ranked first in receipt of private remittances from Russia, followed by Ukraine, Tajikistan, Armenia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan, “How much money is sent from Russia to the CIS,” (Skolko deneg shlyut iz Rossii v SNG), Kommersant, No. 184 (3515), October 3, 2006, (accessed August 1, 2007).

70 See for example, “Report from an International Research Mission: Migrants in Russia,” published jointly by the La Fédération Internationale des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH) and Grazhdanskoe Sodeistvie (Civic Assistance Committee), July 26, 2007,$ID/90119D01A56DAEA5C325732500476C85 (accessed July 30, 2007) and Olga Antonova, “Data Sources on International Migration,” United Nations Secretariat Department of Economic and Social Affairs, November 2006, ESA/STAT/AC.119/17.

71 Igor Rotar, “Moscow Introduced Full Visa requirements for Georgians,” Prism, Vol. 7, Issue 3 (March 30, 2001), (accessed May 3, 2007). According to Georgian Border Guard officials, introduction of the visa regime with Georgia severely curtailed the movement of people between the countries, especially from Georgia to Russia. “A Wall of Mistrust,” Civil Georgia, December 19, 2002 (accessed May 9, 2007).

72 Federal Law “On Citizenship of the Russian Federation,” No. 62 FZ, May 31, 2002, and Federal Law “On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation,” No. 115 FZ, July 25, 2002. Amnesty International, “Open Letter from a Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation,” EUR 046/051/2003, May 21, 2003, (accessed May 1, 2007). See also Oganes Sarkisov, “New Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in Russia,” (accessed May 16, 2007). The 2002 citizenship law changed citizenship requirements, requiring applicants to have lived in Russia for at least five years, pass a Russian language exam and have a job. The previous law required only three years of residence and no language test. Subsequent amendments attempted to relax the impact of some of the restrictions on migrants from former Soviet countries, and in November 2003, a law was passed to allow all former Soviet citizens living in Russia legally to apply for fast-track citizenship before the end of 2005, and in December 2005 the period was prolonged for two more years till the end of 2007. Claire Bigg, “Russia: Putin Asks Parliament to Ease Citizenship Rules.”

73 The law also introduced the migration card, which all foreigners entering Russia must fill out and carry with them for the duration of their stay. The migration card contains personal information and proves legal entry to Russia. After the 2002 law, all foreigners could obtain residency registration only if they were in possession of a migration card, as residency registration is affixed on the migration card. Foreigners not subject to the visa regime could stay in Russia for a maximum of 90 days without obtaining a permanent or temporary residency permit unless he or she had a job contract, in which case stay was granted for up to one year. See “Immigration to the Russian Federation,” Baker and McKenzie, November 2006, (accessed August 6, 2007).

74 Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation, No. 195-FZ of December 30, 2001, with Amendments and Additions, art. 18, parts 8 and 10. Prior to introduction of this law, administrative expulsion was possible, but rarely used. See also Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe, “Current Tensions between Russia and Georgia,” AS/Mon(2006)40 rev, January 22, 2007, p. 8.

75 ECRI, “Third Report on the Russian Federation,” para. 157.

76 In 1998, the Russian Constitutional Court found that “… the registration authorities are only entitled to certify the freely expressed will of a citizen in his choice of... residence. This is why the registration system may not be permission-based and it shall not entail a restriction on the citizen's constitutional right to choose his place of... residence. Therefore the registration system in the sense compatible with the Russian Constitution is only a means... of counting people within the Russian Federation which is notice-based and reflects the fact of a citizen's stay at a place of his temporary or permanent residence.” The Constitutional Court emphasized that, upon presentation of an identity document and a document confirming the person's right to reside at the chosen address, the registration authority should have no discretion and should register the person concerned at the address indicated. The requirement to submit any additional document might lead to “paralysis of a citizen's rights.” As cited in European Court of Human Rights, Tatishvili v Russia, no. 1509/02, judgment of February 22, 2007, available at, para 31. In its February 2007 judgment in the case Tatishvili v Russia, the European Court of Human Rights found that the Russian government had violated Larisa Tatishvili’s right to freedom of movement by denying her application to be registered at her place of residence in Moscow in 2000. Tatishvili was born in Georgia, held a USSR passport, and lived in Moscow. See also “Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène, Mission to the Russian Federation,” para. 76.

77 Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in Russia, July 25, 2002, N115-F3, with all additions and amendments. See also, “Overview of Changes to the Legislation on the Status of Foreign Nationals in the Russian Federation,” Baker and McKenzie, November 2006, (accessed August 7, 2007).

78“Opening Address at the Session of the Council for the Implementation of Priority National Projects and Demographic Policy 5 October 2006,” President of Russia website, (accessed April 24, 2007).

79 Fines for migrants are 2,000-5,000 rubles (approximately US$78-$196); fines for employers are 40,0000-50,000 rubles (approximately US$1,570-$1,963); and fines for companies are 400,000-500,000 rubles (approximately US$15,707-$19,634). Any person, government official or legal entity providing accommodation to a migrant who is not in full compliance with the laws is also subject to heavy fines. Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation, No. 195-FZ of December 30, 2001, with Amendments and Additions, articles 18.8, 18.9, and 18.10.

80 Decree no. 682 allowed for six million work permits to be issued to labor migrants from the CIS countries not subject to visa requirements and decree no. 665 allowed for 308,842 work permits for foreign workers from all other countries. “Russian government decree of November 15, 2006 no. 682, Moscow, on the establishment of quotas for work permits for foreign workers, not required to hold a visa to enter the Russian Federation, for 2007.” (Postanovlenie Pravitelstva Rossiskoi Federatsii ot 15 noiabria 2006 N 682 g. Moskva Ob utverzhdenii na 2007 god kvoti na vydachu razreshenii na rabotu inostrannim gradzhdanam pribyvshim v Rossiiskuiu Federatsiiu v poriadke, ne trebuiiushem polucheniia vizy), Rossiiskaya Gazeta, November 16, 2006, and “Russian government decree of November 11, 2006, no. 665, Moscow, on the establishment of quotas for issuing invitations to foreigners to enter the Russian Federation for employment in 2007,” (Postanovlenie Pravitelstva Rossiiskoi Federatsii ot 11 noyabrya 2006 g. N 665 g. Moskva Ob utverzhdenii na 2007 kvoti na vydachu inostrannym grashdanam priglashenii na vezd v Rossiiskuiu Federatsiiu v tseliakh osushchestvleniia trudovoi deiatelnosti), Rossiiskaya Gazeta, November 16, 2006.

81 From January 15 to April 1, 2007 foreigners could only constitute 40 percent of market workers. “Russian government decree of November 15, 2006, on the establishment of a quota of foreign workers allowed to be involved in retail sales on the territory of Russian Federation in 2007 (No. 683, Moscow),” (Postanovlenie Pravitelstva Rossiiskoi Federatsii ot 15 noiabria 2006 g. N. 683 g. Moskva ob ustanovlenii na 2007 god dopustimoi doli inostrannykh rabotnikov ispolzuemykh khoziaistuiuschimi sub”ektami osuschestvliaiuchimi deiatelnost v sfere roznichnoi torgovli na territorii Rossiiskoi Federatsii), Rossiiskaya Gazeta, November 16, 2006.

82 “Foreigners in Russia are forbidden to sell at markets.”

83 “Russia begins inspections of markets and migrants,” (Rossiya nachinaet proverku rynkov i migrantov),” BBC, January 15, 2007, (accessed August 1, 2007).

84 Decree of the President No. 637 of June 22, 2006 “On Measures to provide assistance to voluntary resettlement into the Russian Federation of compatriots living abroad.”

85 “Speech to the Federation Council,” May 10, 2006, President of Russia website, (accessed August 7, 2007).

86 Prices for some foods increased, sometimes as much as by 200 percent. Tai Adelaja, “Markets Bear the Brunt of New Immigration Policies,” The St. Petersburg Times, February 6, 2007, (accessed May 10, 2007).

87 Tai Adelaja and Daan van der Schriek, “Markets Unable to Find Vendors,” The Moscow Times, April 9, 2007, available at: (accessed April 9, 2007). The Association of Russian Peasant (Private) Farms and Agricultural Cooperatives (AKKOR) said the idea of filling the empty stalls with “native farmers” is absurd. Lyudmila Butuzova, “Russia Cracks Down on Illegal Labor Migration,” Moscow News, December 1, 2006, (accessed April 24, 2007).

88 Adelaja and van der Schriek, “Markets Unable to Find Vendors.”

89 “Russia Home to Some 10m Illegal Migrants- Federal Migration Service,” Interfax news agency, May 25, 2007, as quoted in BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, in English.

90 Human Rights Watch interview with Svetlana Gannushkina, head of Grazhdanskoe Sodestvie, Moscow, July 31, 2007.